History tells us that gutters were first created to funnel the rainwater into a barrel for home use. Later they realized that it prolonged the life of the structure by keeping the water off the walls and foundation. Gutters were adapted to collect and direct rain away from the house as its primary function.
Each state has different rules and you will see fewer gutters on the homes in the south and west. The reason being that more homes are built on slab foundations and the occasional flooding helps to combat ants and termites. Here in the northeast we have more basements and crawl spaces that we don’t want to flood. Without gutters the rain would make moats around the perimeter of your foundation which would eventually erode the foundation which would allow for flooding in the basement.
Humans need water but water is enemy #1 for homes. It causes warping, rot, mold and swelling on the walls, floors and ceilings. Rainwater can cause damage on the outside of the house and the inside if it gets in. Think of this, most of our homes are actually wood stick frames with plywood sheathing. A wood box and wood swells, warps and rots. It becomes food for ants and termites. We need to clad our wood boxes with siding and shingles. We don’t want to just be inside a box so we created windows & doors. So every opening needs to be water tight. Gutters take the bulk of the rain away from the house and to work well need them to be clean of debris.
Gutter cleaning should be done after the leaves have fallen and before ice and snow arrives in your town. Leaves, twigs and dirt will slow down the flow of the water off the roof. Just like rocks in a stream. Like a dam stops water, debris can dam the gutter which can create a waterfall instead of a stream. That becomes a real problem when the temperatures drop and the waterfall becomes an ice dam.
Quick science lesson:
When water freezes it expands. If it is in a container it will force its way out of it. Ice builds on itself by lowering the temperature of the new water so it will just keep getting bigger.
Ice dams start from a few leaves and dirt in the gutter. Each freezing rain or melting snow with add to the ice block. As it expands it can push the roof shingles up. It can separate the gutter from the fascia which protects the edge of the roof. It will stop the water from going down the drainpipe away from the house and divert it down the side of the house. Ice dams can be quite damaging and multiple ice dams can become a serious problem quite quickly.
Regular gutter cleaning can keep the water flowing away from your house. But once the temperature drops to 32 whatever is in the gutter will start to freeze. Damp leaves will become ice blocks which grow into ice dams. So if you don’t have covered gutters you need to consider adding covers or at the least clean your gutters regularly to keep the water flowing away from the house.
The bottom line? Keeping your gutters clean will avoid damage to your wood trim and to minimize ice damming. The gutters should be 100% clean by end of November or early December. Believe us – your house will love you for it!